Durban - The scourge of gender-based violence and a culture that fosters it from childhood is once again in the spotlight following the brutal attack launched on a defenceless schoolgirl by a fellow pupil.
A harrowing video - of a teenage boy brutally assaulting his female peer in the corridors of Siyathuthuka High in Inanda - emerged on Twitter on Women’s Day.
This comes as the country commemorates Women’s Month and less than a week after Deputy Higher Education Minister Mduduzi Manana allegedly hit a woman at a Johannesburg nightclub after she called him “gay”.
Also an attack at a KFC outlet in Pretoria earlier this month, while identified as a racially motivated incident, included the assault of a woman.
On Thursday, during a media briefing, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula described the video as “brutal”.
“I thought she (the victim) needed a scan to check her likely head trauma,” he said. “These things occur when we promote violence and make it fashionable. These are the children we raise.”
Mbalula said without serious intervention, the boy in the video would “surely grow up to be a woman killer”.
However, with regard to Manana’s case, Mbalula said that alcohol consumption had contributed to the incident. He also said that alcohol was linked to incidents of gender-based violence.
However, Mbalula’s comments regarding alcohol abuse in the Manana assault case drew strong criticism on social media, with many questioning why alcohol should be blamed for Manana’s behaviour.
Section 27’s Ntsiki Mpulo said the team at the public interest law centre was distressed about the recent incidents and it could no longer be “business as usual”.
“This is abnormal and we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves as a society and country and figure out what role we play in bringing up boys who think that violence against women is acceptable. It is not,” she said.
Commission for Gender Equity spokesperson Javu Baloyi echoed the minister and Mpulo’s sentiments.
“It’s about how we raise the boy child,” he said. “Our boys and our men don’t know how to channel their feelings. They feel entitled to a woman’s body. We need for them to be schooled in respect, gender equality and women’s rights.”
Baloyi was concerned when asked about the video.
“It makes us sick. A serious example needs to made of him (the boy in the video). He has to be expelled with immediate effect or suspended pending an investigation. We cannot have a beast like him in one of our schools. We want to see him arrested and charged criminally.”
In the video, the boy throws the girl against a wall, while a group of others shout in Zulu: “Scratch her face.”
She falls to the ground and remains silent as he kicks her repeatedly and shouts at her that she is “talking s***”.
Then he casually walks away.
The girl struggles to get up and appears to be bleeding.
Former Childline head and now a consultant on child rights and child protection Joan van Niekerk welcomed the public outcry.
She said it was a crime and there needed to be consequences but there also needed to be questions.
“We’ve got to acknowledge we have poor role models in leadership - like the deputy minister (Manana),” Van Niekerk said. “At that level, there is permissibility. And at home, children who behave in this way, have usually experienced this behaviour on themselves.”
Van Niekerk said children are raised with too much physical discipline.
“They think hitting and smacking is a way of coping with anger and frustration and differences in their relationships. We should be raising them in a culture of non-violence, presenting them with rational ways of dealing with their feelings.”
She said an approach in line with restorative justice should be adopted to deal with the boy.
Equal Education’s Mila Kakaza said the group demanded that the school institute disciplinary action, and provide both pupils with counselling and support.
The provincial Education Department’s Muzi Mahlambi said officials would visit the school to get more details.
The national Education Department said it would assist to provide support to the girl if necessary.